Saturday, September 25, 2010

Garden Summary 2010: Part 1

Though the growing season is not completely over, we've now had the opportunity to harvest each crop at least once (we had such an early spring this year that some crops, like our lettuce, beets, and radishes; have been planted twice or even three times!), so we are now able to take stock over our efforts, review, and see what things worked, and what we could improve upon.

First and foremost, this year's garden was all about experimentation. Everything, from the type of garden beds we built to the produce we grew was mostly new to us, and we were unsure of what type of yield we would receive. And I am very happy to announce that overall this year's garden was a huge success. The simple fact that we've purchased virtually no vegetables, and only a small amount of fruit the entire summer is a testament to the wonders of growing your own food. We've been very blessed.

That being said, I want to go over each thing we grew, and the methods we used, and review what worked, and what changes we will make next year. There is no way I will be able to fit this all into one post, so I will be breaking the summary up into several parts. I am not yet sure how many, as it all depends on how long each post ends up. This is not only for ourselves, to keep record of our efforts and document the various techniques we've tried, but hopefully also be useful to others; that they may learn from our mistakes example.

Yet before I go into the summary, I'll give a little update: we've started winterizing the garden beds. Chris went out and bought clear plastic sheeting and strapping (which is not, as I originally thought, the fabric strapping used to tie down boxes during shipping, but wood strapping, 1"x1.5". It is looking MUCH better than I had imagined in my head - silly me!), and is covering each bed to make 3 removable greenhouses. By keeping the snow and frost off each bed, we should extend our growing season well into Autumn this year, and make for earlier planting next spring! Did I mention my husband is a genius? Of course, this is all unproven and yet another experiment for us, but so far the interior of the plastic has already been a few degrees warmer than the outside air, so that's promising. Anyways, on to the summary...

The plastic sheeting going up to winterize the beds

The first "greenhouse" completed

The garden beds
The first things I'd like to go over are the garden beds themselves. We researched many methods and ideas long before we actually built the beds, and from everything we read, we decided raised beds were the way to go. The beds were supposed to be 12" x 4", though ended up more like 12'x5', 12'x4.5', and 12'x4'. We were using wood given to us, so we can't complain! I will say however, that for me, at 5'4", it is much easier to work in the bed that was only 4' across. The very first bed I often had to step into to weed the very centre, which defeated one of the reasons we used raised beds in the first place. They are supposed to ensure you never have to walk in the bed; which means the soil is never compacted and remains light and airy. Also, by not having to make room for pathways, you can ignore the spacing given on the seed packaging, and grow your produce closer to the ideas set out in square foot gardening. This gives you greater yield in a smaller space.

As mentioned, we used wood given to us, and the beds ended up about 6" high. That is probably the lowest you'd want to make the beds, and I would recommend making them about 1' high. Not only is this easier on your back, but if the soil you are starting out with is not the best, then you can give your plants more nutrients by filling the beds with triple-mix (as we did) or other organic matter-rich combinations.

Wood is not the only thing you can make the beds out of; I've seen pictures of other materials used: bricks, concrete blocks, or you can even just pile the earth up without any type of retaining wall. We chose wood because although it will have to be replaced in 5-10 years as the wood rots, it gives up the opportunity to change up the layout later on, and is simply not as permanent. That is also why Chris constructed the arbours in wood and without nails; for the simple reason that they can be taken apart with relative ease.

As this post is becoming rather long, I'll leave it at this, and continue part two by discussing the arbours!

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